by Alan Hoskins
Branson, Mo. – As an admitted addict to Branson entertainment and golf, there’s one thing sure to rankle some feathers – the assertion that Branson is all “country and western.”
With no disrespect to the Baldknobbers and Presley’s Country Jubilee, the founders of this Entertainment Capital of the World, country and western is in the vast minority when filling Branson’s nearly 50 theaters with upwards of 100 shows.
You need go no farther than the headliners: Shoji Tabuchi, the Japanese violinist and arguably Branson’s No. 1 star, who presents a dazzling costumed Las Vegas type show; Liverpool Legends, the No. 1 tribute band to the Beatles; Yakov Smirnoff, the Russian-born comedian; and “Jonah,” the spectacular Biblical story on the Sight & Sound Theater’s 300-foot wraparound stage.
But they represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many venues of entertainment. Just scroll through the www.Branson.com or www.Bransonshows.com websites and you’ll find an endless number of musical shows offering everything from pop, rock and a little country to Broadway, gospel and hip hop – sometimes with dancing and always with lots of comedy and laughs.
So if country and western is not your thing, here’s a bunch you may have not heard about but should:
“Six” – One of Branson’s best shows, six brothers who perform without musical accompaniment – except that which they provide on their own. Their amazing talents, especially percussion-wise, enables them to sing a wide range of songs along with an array of sounds including the start of a NASCAR race.
“Heygoods” – One of Branson’s most popular shows for nearly two decades, five spirited brothers and one vivacious sister present not only great harmonies but virtuoso performances on more than 20 different instruments. A high energy show, music is combined with state-of-the-art special effects including a pyrotechnics and laser display.
“It” by the Hughes Brothers – When it comes to family shows, this tops anything you’ll ever see. Five brothers, all under the age of 40, bring their wives and their children (26 of all ages at last count) all onto the stage for impressive dance moves, instrumentals, comedy and spot-on harmonies.
“Texas Tenors”– Don’t let the ‘Texas’ in Texas Tenors fool you into thinking you’re getting country and western, not when the list of songs includes “O Solo Mio,” “Danny Boy,” “Unchained Melody,” “My Way” and the theme from “Phantom of the Opera.” Viewed by millions on America’s Got Talent, the Tenors’ first album Country Roots – Classic Sound hit No. 1 on the classical and country charts.
“Rick Thomas” – A Vegas headliner for more than 15 years, illusionist Rick Thomas is in his first season bringing magic, music and dance to Branson. Named “Stage Magician of the Year” by the Academy of Magical Acts and “Magician of the World” by World Magic Award, Thomas has taken his act to more than 50 countries on five world tours. Also a former ballroom dance champion, his ability to make performers vanish on stage is exceptional.
“Magnificent 7” – Olathe native Joe Tinoco, his wife Tamra and their young daughter Talya present seven decades of music favorites – everything from Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Hank Williams to the Rat Pack, Minnie Pearl and the Bee Gees. With 75 different musical productions and countless costume changes, there’s something memorable from every decade.
Also new this year are Dublin’s Irish Tenors and the Celtic Ladies, Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show and Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Zipline at Branson Landing along with limited appearances by such legends as Bill Cosby, Johnny Mathis, The Letterman, the Osmonds and the Lennon Sisters.